|The five sealed glass jars containing suspected snake venom. Picture by Biplab Basak|
TT, Oct. 15: A team of forest officers in Siliguri has seized five sealed glass jars of suspected snake venom that could be worth Rs 175 crore if the contents are genuine.
The officers said the suspected venom could have been extracted in France and then smuggled into India through Bangladesh.
Led by Sanjay Dutta, the range officer of Belakoba under the Baikunthapur forest division in Jalpaiguri, the team posed as buyers and arrested four persons carrying the jars from a Siliguri hotel yesterday.
An SUV, a gun and four live cartridges were also seized from the four, residents of South Dinajpur and Malda districts.
“On September 20, we got information that some people were smuggling snake venom, extracted and processed in France, from Bangladesh into India. A couple of days ago, we learnt that four persons carrying the venom had put up at a hotel in Siliguri,” said range officer Dutta.
Dutta said his team then contacted the four and showed interest in buying the venom. The gang allegedly quoted a price of Rs 35 crore for each of the five jars.
“We posed as buyers from Bhutan. They showed us some video clips of the jars containing the venom. When we said we would buy the product, they brought out the jars and we nabbed them,” he said.
Forest officers this newspaper spoke to wondered if the haul could be the biggest in Bengal in recent times. Each of the jars weighed nearly 2kg and had stickers of a French company known to sell snake venom.
According to Dutta, the gang had told interrogators they were given the jars “somewhere in South Dinajpur by some persons from Bangladesh”. The four were allegedly instructed to meet the Bangladeshi group near the Nepal border in Panitanki in a few days.
The forest range officer said the jars would be sent to a lab in Hyderabad to ascertain the veracity of the contents.
Forest department sources said there was a huge demand for snake venom among producers of Chinese traditional medicine for its supposed aphrodisiac properties. Its rare availability has prompted an illegal trade.
In India, snake venom can be extracted, carried or sold only if permitted by the forest department. Pharmaceutical companies using it to make anti-venom injections and drugs need the approval of the Drug Control Authority of India.